"Dedicated To The Winners & The Losers..." - Raekwon

Monday, June 30, 2008

Not A Blogger Kills Status Ain't Hood

Our Glorious Leader Knows What's Up...

Those that were with this (not a) blog since it's genesis know that I got my start as the XXL-mentioned "superstar" blogger that I've become as a lowly commenter on my notorious, much-hated on nemesis', Tom Breihan's blog, "Status Ain't Hood", over at the Village Voice's website. It's no secret that I have been on a one-man crusade to hate on and disparage Tom's tragic taste in popular rap music since my days as a fruit fly bitching about motherfuckin' Pitbull being placed higher than Nas in Tom's personal canon. Nothing brings me greater pleasure then slyly mocking Tom and others of his tragic ilk when they fawn over Weezy's second rate Ol' Dirty Bastard impression as if it's the Word.

So it came as a personal shock to me yesterday, when I discovered that Tom will be leaving the Village Voice and ending his most notorious blog. I was devasted in ways that can't possibly be expressed in words. Whose words will I get needlessly worked up into a healthy and gooey froth over when they make outrageous claims like Young Jeezy is a good rapper or Cam'ron is lyrical genius? Noz? He no longer works for XXL. Bol? The man is basically a self-parody now. I suppose there is always the rest of the clowns at Pitchfork.com but it's just not gonna be the same without Tom riding the nuts of some half-assed indie rock band. I may have to continue on my path to complete self-destruction and take up drinking at work without a proper nemesis to waste my time hating on.

Now Tom claims that he's leaving the Voice of his own personal accord for greener pastures, however, we all know what's really up. I can only take this loss of one of the world's most notorious bloggers as my own personal victory and a testament to my supreme ability to hate on people that I barely know. I mean it's a great comfort to know my hating is that powerful and influential. Who knows? Could I end the career of Shawn Carter next? Time will only tell.

I started this blog almost as the anti-Status Ain't Hood when one of my fellow commentors on the blog asked after I made another one of my patented sarcastic bile-infused rants if I had a "humorless blog somewhere where I can read more." I took that piece of criticism to heart and soon started the blog that you are reading today. "Not A Blogger" was created as a sanctuary for hip hop that didn't suck; where rappers with actual, discernible talent would be praised and mediocre rappers would be endlessly mocked for the amusement of all (but mostly myself). I feel that since this blog was concieved as the antithesis to Tom's blog that since Tom has left the Village Voice that the only logical choice to fill his position would be me. I feel that I would be truly an inspired and excellent choice to be the the Voice's resident music blogger since I actually know what I'm talking about and can most assuredly say something controversial to bait page views and the comment flies. I encourage (nay demand) that all of my loyal readers (Tray and Trey that means you!) to write to the Village Voice and demand that they hire me as their new music blogger. You know I will work cheap. Just ask the Los Angeles Times. They had me working for free!

In all seriousness, Tom is one of my favorite writers working today. I read his blog religiously and he is one of the best writers writing about popular music today. Hyperbole and my asshole rants aside, I will really miss checking his blog when I'm goofing off at work and I really do wish him nothing but the best in the future. I'll probably end up following him to whatever forum hires him next as a writer if nothing else for my sheer amusement. I actually happened to meet his brother, once, while I was working on a film production in New Jersey and he was a really nice guy so I'm assuming Tom is pretty much like him. I mean if for nothing else, Tom's a Syracuse University alumni like myself so he's at least got that going for him. Us, Orange(men), have got to stick together, after all.

Although for the record, there is nothing more hood than status. Just ask Jay-Z.

Friday, June 20, 2008

What I Imagine G-Unit's Terminate On Sight To Sound Like Without Actually Having Heard It

"In this photo, the boys prepare to invade Iran using nothing but duct tape and grappling hooks."

The last time we heard an album from the dastardly villain, 50 Cent and his weed toting minions, he had been defeated by the Allied Forces of Real Hip Hop lead by General Kanye Omari West after cutting off the One Ring from Curtis’ treacherous finger thus freeing the people of Middle Earth from the tyranny of 50’s tragic food-sex metaphor radio dominance…or something like that. It was the first truly public blow to 50’s commercial dominance and marked the official end to the 50 Cent era of rap music. The King is dead! Long Live the King….

However, like any good Hollywood villain, you can’t keep Jason Voorhees down forever and 50 Cent returned to the scene firing with all weapons loaded releasing a bunch of popular mixtapes through his ubiquitous social-networking website, ThisIs50.com, that were seen as return to G-Unit’s mixtape gutter roots by his long-time fans and apologists. I could not give a bigger shit. 50 Cent has long past made music that was even remotely salvageable ( “I Get Money’s” inexplicable transcendent ass aside ) so the thought of 50 Cent making even more violent socially reprehensible garbage over the beats to “Dey Know” and “A Millie” wasn’t exactly going to pique my decidedly prurient interests.( I had Wale’s mixtapes to listen and Lil’ Wayne’s abortions to hate on! A man has to balance his priorities.) So it came as something of a shock that in between kicking Young Buck out of G-Unit and burning the mother of his own child’s house town (*allegedly*, of course), that G-Unit was planning on releasing their long-anticipated follow-up (as fucking if…) to their debut record called “Terminate On Sight.”

Never one to waste the opportunity to joyously hate on some people I’ve never met and iare more successful than I am, I have decided to do one of my patented reviews on G-Unit’s new album where I review the album without actually having heard a note of it. I am doing this review track-by-track Byron Crawford-style for my own personal convenience. Enjoy and as usual like with all of my reviews fictional or otherwise, this should be treated as the 100% gospel truth about this album. I will not accept dissent to the contrary.

1. “Straight Outta Southside” – Ok, I admit it. I have actually heard this one. It’s actually kind of awesome. It sounds like vintage N.W.A. in both it’s sonics and general sense of ignorance. This apparently was billed as a “Sean Bell Tribute” but other than Yayo shouting “fuck the police who killed Sean Bell” there isn’t a lot of poignant social commentary on this song. In fact, I’m pretty sure Yayo screaming “fuck the police” is about as socially poignant as Tony Yayo is even capable of.

2. “Piano Man” – This song is either 50’s heartfelt tribute to his fanboy love of William Joseph Martin Joel or a concept song about selling cocaine much like the time that Young Jeezy was writing his verse to the “Can’t Tell Me Nothin’” Remix and noticed that the keys on a grand piano were white and thus another cocaine metaphor was born!

3. “Close To Me” – This is a Tony Yayo solo ballad about his unspoken and unrequited love for 50 and how the world can never possibly understand the special bond they feel for each other. There is definitely a vocoder involved in this one. This is an album highlight.

4. “Rider Pt. 2” – I don’t particularly remember Rider Part One so I can’t imagine the song was that good to begin with. Maybe, it’s like that time where Cam’ron made a remix to “Get ‘Em Girls” on “Killa Season” and forgot the name of the original song so he just called it “Get ‘Em Daddy” instead because he had smoked himself functionally retarded at that point, anyway.
Yeah, that’s it.

5. “Casualties Of War” – This is definitely a song about all of 50’s fallen soldiers that never got to release an album on G-Unit because 50 was too busy doing his taxes. There is probably somebody like Lyfe Jennings or some other shitty third-rate R&B singer crooning a chorus about how much he misses his homies. Homo eroticism abounds.

6. “You So Tough” – This song is apparently the one where 50 Cent goes in on T.I. for snitching to the feds for beating the rap about the time that Tip decided to purchase a Jericho missile from the terrorists who captured Tony Stark. I’m sure the irony went right over Curtis’ head that the start of his career was based being nearly shot to death for snitching on Supreme Griffith. I’m pretty sure Yayo makes a reference to his penchant for beating the shit out of fourteen year old boys on this song as well.

7. “No Days Off” – This one features Young Buck. I’ll let the irony of Young Buck appearing on a song called “No Days Off” marinate a little for you…. Ok, that’s enough. I’m guessing this song about Lloyd Banks love for toting 50’s Louis Vuitton bags through airports.

8. “T.O.S. (Terminate On Sight)” – Hey now! It’s the titular song of the album. This one probably uses a lot of G-Unified synthesizers and is produced by some fifth rate Dre Clone. I’m sure there about eight thousand references to killing people on this song. Come to think of it though? How awesome would this song be if it sampled the “Terminator Theme”? Why hasn’t there been any rap songs that sample the “Terminator” anyway? It seems like a pretty obvious choice. Dipset get on that one.

9. “I Like The Way She Do It” – Ah, yes! It’s the lead single designed to make it seem like G-Unit likes the company of women. I’ve miraculously managed to not hear this song yet so I’m guessing this one is particularly heinous if even the sycophantic 50 nut-huggers at Hot 97 haven’t been playing this one. You know how, the deejays in New York likes to get on their knees and service 50’s ball sack.

10. “Kitty Kat” – Oh, god! Please tell me this is not one of 50’s patented food-sex metaphor songs. I mean comparing a Kit Kat bar to a black woman’s vagina is kind of low even for 50. I don’t even want to think about this. Next!

11. “The Party Ain’t Over” – Ha! This one features Young Buck, too! I’m dying from laughter here. It’s like 50 purposely placed his vocals on songs that would instantly remind people that Buck’s been Diamond Dave’d out of Van Halen. Touché, 50. Touché.

12. “Let It Go” – This is 50’s message song towards the Game about giving up his creepy obsession with him and Dr. Dre. I mean it’s been three years and you’re still pissed off about Dr. Dre not returning any of your phone calls. I mean being kicked off the Titanic before it hit the iceberg has been the best possible career move for Jayceon. Dude, just let it go.

13. “Get Down” – Congratulations, G-Unit! You’ve made the one millionth song on a rap album called “Get Down”! Tell ‘em, Vanna, what they’ve won! A fully paid vacation to Flop Land, Pat! Yay! I’ll eat a whole coterie of haberdashery if this version is better than Nas’.

14. “I Don’t Wanna Talk About It” – This song is about the numerous times that Tony Yayo was gang raped in the joint while the first album was being released. Prodigy guest features on this one.

15. “Ready Or Not” - If this song does not feature an Enya-sample and have a guest appearance from Lauryn Hill than I’m gonna be pissed off on principle There are some songs in the canon you just do not fuck with.

16. “Money Make The World Go Round” – A shitter version of “C.R.E.A.M.” I’m actually kind of amazed an entire G-Unit album goes around and on the last song, they make song about money. I’m proud of these guys.

Final Verdict: There is no way in hell this album is going to be any good. Lloyd Banks is a shell of his former self if that’s even possible. 50 Cent has long since past pretending to give a crap about his music so I know he’s not going to be turning in any inspiring verses and the choice to fill in Buck’s position in the group with Yayo has to be one of the most awful in a string of awful artistic decisions that Curtis has ever made. All kidding aside, I’m pretty much guaranteeing this will end up near the top of my worst albums list this year right next to Trilla and Common’s impending apocalypse.

Adjusted Pitchfork Rating: 2.5

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Young Buck: Best Rapper Alive?

(Well, no...but he's definitely better than the sociopath in the center.)

I definitely did not care for Young Buck at first but if anything that’s due to my general loathing of Curtis Jackson. When 50 Cent broke on the scene like most people I was caught up in the initial hype. Curtis had an impeccable pedigree since he was being mentored by my favorite rapper at the time (Pre-Encore Eminem) and my favorite producer at the time (Pre-Roid Rage Fun Dr. Dre) and he promised a debut record that was as good as “Illmatic” and “Ready to Die.” After months of hype, when I actually got a chance to hear the record, I was struck by how utterly mediocre it was (although on retrospect, "Get Rich Or Die Tryin’" is a pretty damn good record) so when the record became the inescapable jam of the summer of 2003, I quickly grew to resent 50 Cent for not only the endless ubiquity the record was being played at my college’s frat circle and how quickly Curtis Jackson went from plucky bullet-ridden upstart to the asshole prince supreme of hip hop once the fame and Vivica A. Fox hit his system. So when 50 Cent introduced his merry band of weed carriers to populate, I wrote of all of G-Unit in one well deserved stroke for being the talentless sycophantic leeching hacks that all ganja toters turn out to be after there master puts them on.

To me, Lloyd Banks was a poor man’s Fabolous (who in turn is a homeless man’s version of Jay-Z) with even weaker punchlines (if that’s even possible) and a creepy homo erotic current, The Game was an extremely annoying name dropping lyrical cipher, and Tony Yayo was quite possibly the worst rapper alive. As for Young Buck, he was a Southern rapper so he had to suck. 50 Cent’s incredible success in the year’s 2003-2005 in inexplicably turning these guys into stars only succeeding in making me loathe these clowns ever more than I would normally hate a group of jewelry polishers. I was perfectly content on hating G-Unit as a whole until I started to slowly but surely notice that Young Buck was a hell of a rapper. Who the fuck knew?

Young Buck’s two commercial solo releases on G-Unit Records, "Straight Outta Ca$hville" and "Buck The World", were for the most part two typical G-Unified abortions filled with middling plinking faux-Dre piano beats, suspect studio gangsterisms, and enough cliche-ridden song-writing that made 50 Cent the biggest musician in the world. However despite being less than stellar efforts on Buck’s behalf, they did feature enough moments of genuine electricity that hinted towards Buck being a much better rapper than his track record had let on. "Bang Bang" and "Welcome To The South" off of Buck's debut record, "Straight Outta Ca$hville" were slow crawling bangers that played to Buck's southern roots and last year's rollicking, hyperbolic Tuba-infused "Get Buck" off of "Buck The Word" is pretty much my favorite song ever. These songs divorced from the more traditional G-Unity material on Buck's records proved that without the insidious artistic influence of Curtis Jackson that Buck could make music that could stand on it's own. Still, I wasn't convinced that Buck was anything more than 50's token southern weed carrier but as of lately, Young Buck has been coming into his own as an artist.

I suppose it was inevitable that 50 Cent would drive out all the artists on his label that were actually better than him and thus had a chance to prove that he was not actually worth a damn as rapper. 50 Cent is a deeply insecure man who seems to derive his self worth not on his own accomplishments but the failures of his others. It seems that he needs to feel a percieved sense of superiority and control over everybody else around him otherwise why does he feel the constant need to insult other rappers. 50 Cent tossed the Game out of G-Unit for some imagined sense of disloyalty conveniently when the Game's first record was massively taking off and has spent the better half of the last few years attacking rappers like Kanye, T.I. and Lil' Wayne who were a threat to his status as the undisputed king of hip hop. It's no surprise than when Young Buck and 50 Cent started to have problems surrounding money issues that Buck started having a creative renaissance and a coming into his own as an artist.

Since last fall, when rumors of Buck's imminent depature from G-Unti became apparent, Young Buck has been making some simply amazing music. First came Hi-Tek and the Outlawz assisted "Drivin' Down The Freeway", a slow, breezy track which highlights Buck's ability to write emotional mid-tempo bangers. The song was a surprise favorite of mine last year as it had a timeless summer-y yet sad quality that was perfect for rolling your windows down and letting a cool breeze blow through your car. The song hinted at a sad, reflective side of Buck that seemed repressed by the endless G-Unitism of 50's bulletproof gangster facade that he demanded all his artists maintained. Next, Buck released the dark and moody "New York City" which sampled Phil Collins' classic "In The Air Tonight" that further showed a more poignant side of Young Buck than we had seen before.

As the conflict between Buck and 50 grew Buck's song-writing became more and more emotional. After 50 Cent officially booted Buck from G-Unit earlier this spring and accused Buck of being an overly emotional, flakey coke head, instead of responding with a vicious "Game-style" diss track, Buck responded with the thoughtful and quiet "My Interview" where Buck admits to his own personal problems while tossing soft but pointed jabs in 50's direction for being a selfish, jealous asshole in the situation. "My Interview" was a stunning anti-diss track in the sense that it showed a thoughtful and remorseful side of Buck that contrasted with 50's narcisstic and childish antics. It made 50 look foolish and for a few moments actually seemed to subvert the impending apocalypse the G-Unit camp was going to have feuding with another one of their more prominent member.

That was until last week where Buck was caught on stage screaming "Fuck G-Unit" at a show in Tampa and the video ended up on some gossip blogs. To me, this was a revelation that was well past due considering 50 Cent is probably hip hop's most utterly repugnant figure since Suge Knight hung Vanilla Ice's pasty ass over a hotel balcony many moons ago and Young Buck completely severing ties towards his former camp is something that was long past due. G-Unit has been a sinking ship since the Game handed them their collective asses on "300 Bars And Runnin" three years ago and 50 Cent decided that he was going to continue on releasing the same awful record out over and over, again. G-Unit is dead and having an association with them is doing absolutely nobody any favors. Banks ' career is deader than Tupac's, Yayo had no concievable talent in the first place other than being 50's child slapping Yes-Man, Conspiracy Theory P is going to be spending 3 years in a state penentiary being raped by men named Tyrone, and Curtis, himself, had his ass served to him royally by Kanye West of all people last year. There's no benefit to being on G-Unit Records, anymore.

However, 50 Cent (while being a horrendous member of the human race is something of a genius when it comes to beef) released a tape earlier this week of a phone conversation recorded allegedly last year at sometime where Buck tearfully begs 50 Cent to let him back into G-Unit after screwing up majorly on some taxes and refusing to carry 50's magic stick at some European tour. For those who have not heard it yet, the tape is best described as sixteen minutes of a man breaking down completely and makes Buck appear to be something of what in layman's term can be described as a massive "pussy." It's not a pretty picture. I could hardly get through the entire tape without turning it off from feeling tremendous embarrassment and pain for the guy. Buck is clearly a man with issues however I can't help but feel that to release a record and release a tape like this ultimately makes 50 Cent even worse. It only further illustrates how just rotten to the core that Curtis Jackson is inside. I mean from randomly attacking rappers, to evicting his own child from his home, to tolerating Tony Yayo's assaults on children, to in all likelihood burning his own house down while his child was inside, Curtis Jackson is not a good person. To embarrass a man that publicly when that man was in great need of help and guidance is a despicable act.

But what happened next is much greater than what Curtis did and only serves to prove what an artist Young Buck is slowly evolving into. "The Taped Conversation", Young Buck's official reply and opening salvo in what is sure to be a series of classic diss tracks, is a vicious but subtle strike at 50 Cent that eschews the traditional route of attacking 50 Cent (i.e. insinuating he's a snitch, insulting his prominent overbite, making fun of his penchant for going shirtless). It's in the vain of Ice Cube's classic N.W.A. diss "No Vaseline" because Buck airs 50 and G-Unit out for their personal treachery and deceitfulness. Over a brooding piano beat and haunting strings, Buck goes on for 50 for being a shameless media whore and addresses 50's hypocrisy and fundamental dishonesty. There is an emotionality to it that makes it a much more personal song than most diss tracks are. You can sense an hurt in Buck's words that is severely lacking in most modern hip hop. I find it personally fascinating.
Buck's new creative direction seems energizing to me that makes me feel that he'll probably escape the indignity of this latest setback and come out stronger. The emotion and weight behind these new songs that he's been releasing lately are reminiscent of "All That I Got Is You" era Ghostface and suggest that Buck now that he's free of 50's creative influence can go on to create beautiful pieces of art. I'm excited for the prospect honestly that Buck can mature and become a great artist on his own. He seems to have all the tools. His delivery is fierce and energetic, his music has a personal quality to it when he breaks from G-Unit's studio gangsterisms, and he's an underrated lyricist in his own right. I personally wish the best for Buck now that he's formally done with G-Unit. Keep your head up, David Brown....
Get 'Em Buck!
Download: Young Buck "The Taped Conversation"

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Wale: Better Than Lil' Wayne...And Probably Lupe And Kanye, Too

And Arguably As Good As Seinfeld...

Over the years a lot of ink has been spilled over how Seinfeld was a television show that became successful almost despite itself. It was created as almost a vanity project for it's budding star comedian, allowed to continue to exist on the air on a whim, featured a cast of main characters that under real life circumstances are vastly unlikeable, and rejected the basic notions of what a sitcom should be. It was a show that could have never been successful in a vacuum and had it been created even a decade earlier or later would have surely failed miserably and ended up as one of those cult shows that you're annoying friend would talk about endlessly and force you to watch old episodes on DVD while you just want to watch the basketball game. However due to the foresight of a particularly savvy NBC television executive, the show was allowed to gain a small but loyal following that soon grew exponentially to the point where it not only became the most popular show of the 1990's but became the undisputed greatest show in the history of televsion. Seinfeld worked not only because it was riotously funny but because it captured the ugly essence of the neurotic, self-absorbed, hypocritical Baby Boom generation. As we all know, the show centered around four neurotic, vaguely Jewish Manhattanites living in the Upper East Side whose ugly self-centered-ness and neuroses served as a dark parody of the self-absorbed go-go eighties and early nineties. It reflected the zeitgest of a time in our country where we were no longer threatened by nuclear annihilation, war or even gross economic poverty where one could sit and reflect on the joys of being devoted to one's self. I can't imagine a show that's less hip hop which is why Wale's undeniably brilliant new mixtape and erstwhile oddball Seinfeld tribute, The Mixtape About Nothing, is so...well, damn brilliant.

The Mixtape About Nothing is the rare mixtape which transcends the often limited and shallow scope of the mxtape genre both because of it's conceptual brilliance and execution. Wale has crafted a mixtape that works as an odd tribute to Seinfeld using snippets of dialogue, completely unexpected shout-outs from Seinfeld members and elements of the show to create a mixtape that not only pays tribute to a brilliant show but helps comment on the rap world today. Like Seinfeld, Wale is a rapper that you might not get at first. His flow is kind of awkward in the same sense that Kanye West's flow was awkward on The College Dropout; his lyrical pedigree vaguely sounds like a warped amalgamation of Kanye, Lil' Wayne and Lupe Fiasco which on the surface would make him an opportunistic clone of the biggest trends in hip hop; and his music bears elements of D.C. go-go music which judging by the fact that there has never been a major go-go act to break out of D.C. in it's thirty year's of existence would lead one to believe that the rest of the country does not care for the sound of bongos and xylophones. However, unlike Lupe and Weezy, Wale is something they are all not. Wale is a Next Generation-type of emcee. He's the Seinfeld of the rap world.

In a sense, Wale is the first rapper of the new generation to be the perfect storm of substance and style which places him beyond any new school emcee that has come along thus far. Wale combines the strengths of a few of the elite of the new school emcees creating a hybrid rapper that can both rock the cargo short wearing hip hop elitists and the wannabe-thugged out ignorant LCD rap fans as well. Often, it's been pointed out that rappers like Lil' Wayne who despite having a clear passion for off-beat weirdo lyricism and a taste for avant-garde don't really say anything of substance in their rhymes. Taken at face value, Tha Carter III is a record about cough medicine, blowjobs, hailing from outer space and being a better rapper than anybody else alive. It's not exactly "What's Goin' On?" in terms of poignant social commentary. Wayne has got the non-sequitur pop culture refrence punchline game down on lock but the elephant in the room that his fans and apologists seem to be ignoring is all those fancy punchlines are almost completely vacant. There is nothing really behind them. The other side of the argument is socially conscious rappers like Lupe Fiasco being almost of all substance and very little style. While I'm a big fan of The Cool, it's hard to deny that Lupe can be at times extremely pedantic and self-righteous with his hip hop bashing and his message. The Cool is a meant to be an "important" "message" record and Lupe does not let you forget that for one second over the course of the entire album. While Lupe has enjoyed some solid success, it's hard to imagine that he's ever going to be as successful as Kanye or Lil' Wayne. Socially conscious throwback boom bap rap is very insular in nature and appeals to a certain set of fans who may be extremely devoted but are hardly the mainstream of hip hop fandom.

Wale's different, of course, because he fuses the strengths of both ends of the hip hop spectrum to create music that is generally....well, brilliant. Like Wayne, Wale is known for his somewhat non-sequitur weirdo lyricism and more importantly like Wayne, he seems to enjoy making and having fun with lyrics. On The Mixtape About Nothing, Wale drops hysterical and esoteric references to Oskana Baiul, the ineptitude of the New Jersey Nets, and the eating habits of the Olsen Twins. "Back In The Go-Go" featuring Southern rap gods Bun B and Pusha-T or retitled on the mixtape as the "The Feature Heavy Song" is 4 minutes of chaotic D.C. rap goodness and for my money is one of the most fun rap songs to be released all year. The song backed by producer Best Kept Secret's go-go-esque production is just a fun lyrical onslaught of epic proportion with all three emcees blacking out over the song's percussion heavy instrumental. Other songs like "The Manipulation", "The Chicago Falcon Remix", "The Cliche' Lil' Wayne Feature", and "The Remake Of A Remake (All I Need)" highlight Wale's passion for lyrics and lighter side.
However, Wale stands out not just because he can make some epic bangers, either. The Mixtape About Nothing is a conceptual record that has a message, too but unlike Lupe or Kanye, Wale doesn't preach; he simply offers his often poignant opinions about a variety of subjects including racism, growing up, the music industry and the nature of his own hype. "The Kramer" jumping off from a recording of the now infamous racist tirade from Michael Richards is the show-stopping centerpiece of the entire album. The song delves into the complexities of the usage of the n-word with a deft and skill that can only be characterized as Obamian. The song narrates a complex story in which rap artists who naively assume their usage of the n-word will be omitted by their white fans who recite their songs word for word and thus help perpetuate a feedback loop where the word is continued on and on ad infinitum. Judging by the muddled nature of "Be A N**** Too", if Nas can come up with an album that is half insightful as that than I will be pleasantly surpised. What's stunning about Wale's conscious side is that he offers clear and insightful ideas that escape many a conscious rapper (Mos Def and Common I'm looking you dead in the eyes)? He's really just that damn good.

It remains to be seen if Wale will be as (relatively) successful as Seinfeld was. Wale is a rapper that is certainly seems like the next big thing but plenty of pretenders to the throne have come and gone and left us with Lil' Wayne licking lollipops all over the radio. The Mixtape About Nothing is a great and transcendent mixtape but plenty of promising young rappers have defaulted when it comes to delivering in the pressure when a commercial album is released. Had the mixtape been released as a legitimate commercial album, I can't imagine that there would be a better album released all year. It's a stunning piece of work that deserves the hype that it's receiving. I'm convinced that Wale is the real deal but is it time for a rapper that effortlessly blends the best elements of LCD and conscious rap? We'll see but if it doesn't... I'll see you back in the go-go.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Allow Me To Not Give A Shit...

Doc Zeus' Personal Sports Apocalypse Is Upon Us, Ladies and Gentleman...

As an avid Cleveland sports fan and defender of all that is right and holy in the world, the upcoming Lakers-Celtics NBA Finals has to be the worst possible thing that has happened to me since the Baltimore Ravens won the Super Bowl in 2000. An event that burns me slow in the deep in the dark recesses of my soul like a potent strain of Nas' Jay-Z slaying ether. The pain from the aftermath of this unholy, cruel event is going to leave deep and dark psychological scars for the rest of my life as I'm forced to wrestle with the cruel nature of existence and God's destructive, selfish apathy.
I'm a Cleveland sports fan and have seen nothing but pain and misery in my life when it comes to rooting for my favorite sports teams. Three generations of Cleveland sports fanatics, 42 yearss to be exact, have not experienced the unimaginable joy of watching one of our teams win the big one which is the the greatest strain of sports futility ever. Since I have never gotten to experience winning the big one, the only joy that I have is watching the teams that I loathe with a passion lose. This year, I won't even get that small consolation.

Two thirds of the Unholy Trinity Of Sports, the Boston Celtics and Kobe Bryant are going to win another damn championship this year and there is absolutely nothing that can be done about it. What's worse I knew this was coming when David Stern manufactured two of the worst trades in sports history to two formerly moribund "premiere" franchises and nobody was screaming shenigans. (I mean seriously, Pau Gasol for Kwame Brown? Pau Gasol For Kwame Brown? That's the best you can do Memphis?! Fuck you.)

This just hurts my soul because I can't even convince myself successfuly to root for one team or the other. Normaly, when there is a team that I absolutely loathe with the passions of a thosand suns, I can, at least, root for the team that is playing against them to win. I never had a broader smile on my face when the Detroit Pistons proved Kobe Bryant to be the team crushing fraud that he is in 2004. I'm just going to sit there watching this series with a look of abject and complete horror on my face as either the entitled, noxious Boston sports fanbase is gifted another completely undeserved championship (after a complete sweetheart of deal from a former Celtics great) or Kobe Bryant, the most joyless, soul-sucking person to ever lace up a pair of sneakers, is going to win another championship proving that there is no God.

The only way this could be possibly worse is if the New York Yankees were somehow prominently involved. (Derek Jeter isn't a Lakers fan, right?! Please, tell me that he's not a Lakers fan!! )

All I can hope for is that collusion between David Stern and the Lakers and Celtics in forcing Memphis and Minnesota into those horrific, bullshit trades is proven by an industrious member of the media and the 2007-2008 NBA season wiped from the official record books. Chuck Phillips, where are you?

Monday, June 2, 2008

Lil' Wayne - Tha Carter III: Review

Cough syrup is a helluva drug...

Hype is a funny thing. It's an intangible concept because nobody can determine why some "events" warrant it but others don't. The basic premise behind it is predicated on the implied future success of an event that nobody has actually witnessed yet. Yet, it garners so much attention but the reason for this is often a complete mystery. In some cases, the hype is so massive that no matter what the actual event turns out to be like, it will fail to live up to expectations set forth for it; in other cases, the hype is so seductive that no matter what the final product actually is, people will convince themselves of it's brilliance. It’s human nature. We either consciously want something to fail or something to massively succeed. We cannot help it.

This contradiction creates an atmosphere where no accurate immediate criticism of an event can be judged. Our biases show through and thus we end up with a skewed perception of what the event actually is. Only the slow crawl of time can provide the necessary foresight to judge the merits of an artistic “event.” Dwayne Michael Carter, Jr. has been assaulting the world for the last couple years of not only his grandiose claims that he is the best rapper currently breathing (better than Rakim, even!) but his upcoming album, Tha Carter III, would be his “Symphony No. 5 In C-Minor and be his great ostensible masterpiece that would prove to his rabid haters, foaming at the mouth at the thought of his artistic failure and comeuppance, that Wayne is not a fraud. Admittedly, I am an open Lil’ Wayne skeptic since I do not buy into the hype that Wayne’s the artistic messiah (Really? MTV? Did you just say he was messianic?) that some of my more unfortunate colleagues seem to want to convince themselves. Lil’ Wayne has always been to me, at least, an above-average emcee with a unique delivery but a weak grasp of lyricism and song-writing and a penchant for dropping mind-bogglingly awful punch-lines.

For me, at least, if Lil’ Wayne wanted to be taken seriously as an elite rapper than he would release the one element on his resume that thus far has eluded him: the classic album. For months and months, Tha Carter III has been delayed and delayed and Wayne has been guest featuring on the singles of the entirety of the South and releasing “highly-touted” (by people who inexplicably think Dedication 2 was some visionary work of art) mixtapes furthering the anticipation that his next album would be the masterpiece that was going to propel him merely from being the “hottest” rapper of his generation to the messiah of rap music itself. Well, Tha Carter III is here and it’s just merely good.

Tha Carter III is Weezy’s most ambitious and codeine-soaked album to date. It’s full of Weezy’s trademark non-sequitur style lyricism and head scratching weirdo-moments that have made him the hipster cult hero that the media adores and hardcore rap fans loathe. It’s clear that Wayne is tempting to consciously craft a masterpiece as the album has an epic but almost desperate feeling to it. Weezy’s taps Shawn Corey Carter himself for the feel-good epic track “Mr. Carter” and the song is clearly meant to be taken as a ceremonial passing of baton from the Golden Era’s leading pop superstar to the modern era’s leading pop superstar. This song should feel organic but it comes across as an extremely obvious move for both parties since Wayne has been touting his status as the Lebron James to Jay’s Michael Jordan for three years now. It feels sickeningly like a marketed ploy for Wayne’s perceived coronation which is a shame because under different circumstances it would be an awesome song, Just Blaze’s production is top notch and Jay-Z turns in one of his most inspired verses since he’s stop pretending to care about being a good rapper, anymore. It also doesn’t help that the beat and concept of the song is a naked bite of the Game and Nas’s superior “Why You Hate The Game” from two years ago, a song that is also meant to be a ceremonial passing of the torch between the older and younger generations.

The album for the most part is a fairly enjoyable series of Wayne’s cough syrup-infused rants about getting money, getting (wo)men to fuck him, eating rappers alive and his unspoken love for his secret lover, Birdman (I’m kidding about that last part but not really.). The problem with the record is the problem with every Lil’ Wayne mixtape since he started using a ghostwriter. Wayne simply isn’t that good of a songwriter. What makes Wayne, an even remotely interesting rapper, is his non-sequitur freestyles that litter his mixtapes and guest appearances. It works perfectly on songs like “We Takin’ Over”, “Holler At Me”, or “Uh-Ohhhh!” because the concept of the song provides Weezy, an outlet to prove his lyrical craft but like a New York mixtape rapper when push comes to shove Wayne falters when he tries to curb his outlandish freestyles into actual rap songs. Songs like “Got Money,” “Lollipop”, “La La”, “Mrs, Officer” and “Misunderstood” are a conceptual mess that really highlight Wayne’s shortcomings as a writer. Unquestionably, the best song on the record is the freestyle epic “A Millie” which in some respects is Wayne’s “It Ain’t Hard To Tell” or “Unbelievable.” It showcases Wayne’s ability to write rhymes over a beat without the benefit of sticking with a traditional song structure. Don’t get me wrong, though. There is a five song stretch in the middle of the album where I thought the Wayne could pull it off and become a good writer but then the apocalyptic combination of “Lollipop/La La” hits and kills any momentum the album builds. As Brandon Soderberg pointed out in his review of the album, sequencing is a problem on the record, as well, and had the record been sequenced slightly differently the momentum could have built to a creative peak and some of the faults in the record could have been avoided.

I can’t help but wonder if Wayne hadn’t wasted so much energy of his releasing mixtape after mixtape of discarded material, Tha Carter III could have been a much better record than it is. There a couple of brilliant gems that were wasted on pointless mixtapes like “I Feel Like Dying”, “I’m Me”, “I” or “Gossip” that had it been placed on the album instead of such quease-inducing wackness as “Lollipop”, “La La”, or “Got Money” the record would be much stronger. The album suffers from too many moments of blatant pop pandering that goes against the weirdo-cough syrup influenced tracks that are the highlights. “Phone Home”, “Dr. Carter” and “Shoot Me Down” are probably three of my favorite tracks on the album and all show that Weezy can be a great writer if he would just focus and write his shit down. As is, “Tha Carter III” isn’t nearly as good as “Tha Carter II” and so it some respects, it’s a failure because the conscious effort of Wayne attempting to make a masterpiece. It’s never a good idea to set out to be brilliant even as a writer, I find that my most inspired moments come from ideas that spring up in the middle of the night. Instead, Wayne chose to make a record that’s supposed to be “brilliant” instead of sticking with his strengths and letting the art stand for itself. It’s too bad for him but it sure going to be a pleasure for me in the next couple of months when I get to say I told you so to everybody.